Q&A with Christian Bale
The actor discusses playing ex-contender Dickie Eklund in The Fighter, learning the Boston accent and his favorite sports
SI.com caught up with Christian Bale to discuss The Fighter, the biopic of "Irish" Micky Ward that opens Friday nationwide. Bale plays Ward's half-brother and trainer Dickie Eklund, a once-promising contender whose career was short-circuited by a crack addiction.
SI.com: Tell me about Dickie Ecklund.
Bale: He'd had hundreds of fights before he was 21, when he fought Sugar Ray Leonard. He was the star of the family. He was thought to be the breadwinner. He was the guy who was going to change their lives. And he had that burden on him for many years. He had a penchant for drinking and partying and he was able to do that, he was able to do it and step in the ring and win. But eventually it caught up with him. I think partly all this pressure from the family led to a self-destructive bent and, ultimately, unfortunately, the crack, which meant that he forgot everything he loved. And that led to various highjinks around town, and a great deal of crime.
He ended up in jail and realizing he really could have been something. I think that Dickie kind of saw [boxing] as a meal ticket. He didn't really see how naturally gifted he was and what could he have been if he had actually disciplined himself like his brother did.
But he comes out of jail a changed man who is able to see that his time is gone and it's his brother's time and it's up to him to explain that to the family. And he trained his brother to become world champ.
SI.com: This was your first time making a film about a real person who is still living. Did that present any new challenges for you?
Bale: I found no challenges on this because Dickie was so helpful.
SI.com: What kind of contact did you have with Dickie during preproduction and the filming of the movie?
Bale: We were in a good amount of contact. I was in Lowell myself with Dickie, and Dickie was back in L.A. for a long time with us. Once the shooting actually starts, I tend to think if you don't have it down, it's a little too late. But I would call Dickie up on occasion and say I'm going to work today, I want you to come down and make sure I do it right for you.
SI.com: How do you prepare to inhabit a role like that?
Bale: I wonder myself every time I get a job. I go, "Aw, crap, how do I do this!" and you just slowly figure it out. It's a slow process for me.
SI.com: I've read that you don't subscribe to the Method technique -- where you relate things in somebody else's life to memories from your own -- but is it different when you're playing a real-life person? You and Dickie had the shared experience of great success at a young age and the expectations that come with it ...
Bale: There are things I relate to that, in seeing the burden and the pressure of that, and the desire to just kind of throw it all away and not to have that responsibility at an age when you don't really wish to have it. I recognize that now, but honestly during filming I just play it like I'm playing Dickie. I don't try to compare it to my own life.
SI.com: How much weight did you lose for the role?
I don't know about that. I never stepped on a scale. I'm just basing it on a look.
SI.com: You've lost weight before. [Bale lost 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist.] You described it as "a commitment level which I discovered I greatly enjoyed." How difficult is it for you and will you ever go back there again?
Bale: I always say never. But I said never about three times.
SI.com: What did Dickie think about the film?
Bale: It took a little while. First time he saw it, he wasn't too fond of it. We went for a drive in my truck and he was mainly talking about his sisters and his mom and how they would think of it. Second time, a little bit better. Third time and then fourth time I was sitting next to him and he was just smiling and patting my shoulder a lot and saying, Ahhh, you got me there! You got me there perfect!" He seemed to be really enjoying himself the last time I saw it with him.
SI.com: Did you have any apprehention about doing a boxing picture, a genre that's governed by such hard conventions?
Bale: No. I'm somebody who ... I'm not really a cinephile. I dont recognize markets in movies or anything like that. I just do whatever interests me.
SI.com: Are there any other boxing movies that you're fond of?
Bale: I mean there's a lot. I didn't look at any for this, but there's an awful lot. It's a great backdrop. The win or lose aspect of the games, these personalities.
SI.com: There have been more films made about boxing than any other sport. A lot of that's because it's much easier to capture than a team sport, but there's also these recurring themes we see that resonate with people.
Bale: There is that personal identification. Seeing the face makes a big difference.
SI.com: This isn't the first time you've had to do an accent, but it's not an easy one. And there's so much scrutiny of the New England accent in films. Was it difficult for you?
Bale: It wasn't tricky. I have a dialogue coach who I see before I come out here. I think if you're still doing it once you're out here, it's too late by then. It's not bad at all; it sounds good to me.
SI.com: Are you a sports fan?
Bale: I think because I grew up in many different towns, I never really had a root where I had a sport team that I really wanted to win. I moved around so much, it never meant a whole lot to me. I stuck mainly with one-on-one sports. I would watch Formula One. I watch MotoGP now and I watch boxing.
SI.com: Are there any fighters that you admire today?
Bale: Absolutely. I admire every single damn fighter out there. If you get in the ring with a pro boxer, you're an idiot if you don't admire every damn fighter out there.
SI.com: Are there any athletes in particular you're fond of?
Bale: For me, there was always Frank Bruno, growing up in England. I liked Nigel Benn a lot, but that was in the past for me. For me, specifically nowadays: Valentino Rossi.